Nathan Richmond over at Scrawlings of a Mad Man has been mulling the question “what qualities make a writer or do writers possess?” and has been wishing to Hulk-smash said writers for the various evasive non-answers he’s received along the lines of a writer being someone who writes X amount daily or sets a schedule and sticks with it or similar. I commented maybe he needed the rephrase the question, then I went back and re-read the question above that he had posted on my Facebook page and realized that A) what I suggested he rephrase the question to was really the same thing he was asking in the first place and B) I haven’t been paying much attention to posts I’ve read lately (and then replying to).
Not a quality that an editor (nor an audience) wants in a writer.
I still contend that a major quality/trait/whathaveyou for any writer is that daily grind, in addition to a need to put words on paper whether it be telling stories or having an intriguing (or humorous) way of interpreting topics. For me it was another means of getting images out of my head.
When I was younger, I carried around a sketch pad and pencils and could usually be found doodling something (if I wasn’t reading), and most of the time I would have a story surrounding the events depicted in the drawing. During junior high, a buddy of mine showed me a collection of stories he’d been writing based on some artwork of his. I’d written a couple of things for class a few years earlier but never thought about putting the back-stories for my drawings to paper. I started doing so and realized I enjoyed it. Images in mind evolved into scenes then short stories and chapters then to novels. By the time I finished high school my tendency to draw had lapsed, and I seldom put brush to canvas anymore. I was bound to the written word. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the craft of writing. I took writing courses in college. And I spent at least two or three hours a day, five days a week at the keyboard (or writing in a notebook) just getting those images out of my head.
I have an on-again/off-again relationship with writing. I’ll go for months where I write nearly every day followed by months where I don’t even want to look at the keyboard or a notebook and pen. If you haven’t figured out by looking at the last time I posted here, I’m currently in the latter state of mind. I’ve spent most of my free time reading, watching TV, or playing video games, and the odd thing is I have not had the nagging sensation that I need to sit at the keyboard.
Burn out/malaise creeping from my gaming into my writing (and voice-over work)?
So what qualities make a writer?
The need to write and having a dedication to the craft.
Things like inquisitiveness and knowledge and interest in people are necessary support for the writer (because the writer has to develop ideas), but that need to write is key.
So, what makes you think you’re a writer?
1. Or weekly as the case may be. Just the act of putting words on paper (or pounding them into electronic form) with regularity does the same for writers that standing at the baseline tossing a yellow ball in the air and whacking it over a net at least once (or twice or three times) a week does for tennis players. It’s that repetition that says, “I’m taking my skill seriously.”
2. I took up painting during high school, which lasted just long enough for me to discover lead miniatures, which became the only thing I painted afterward—aside from an occasional piece of tabletop terrain. I have doodled seldom since college though of late I’ve considered drawing again.
3. Take it from experience, if you write longhand, do so with pen, and if you’re left-handed, make sure it has quick drying ink. When I moved from my parents’ house, I tossed several boxes of notebooks illegibly filled with smeared graphite. Several years’ worth of notes from various classes, ideas for stories, stories themselves were trashed.
4. Though I have met occasionally with a group at my local game store for board games, and I keep reading new roleplay game systems (or struggling through them anyway—most just bore me after two or three pages).
5. Just as the need to X (or passion, to use the term supplied by Bob Mayer) is the key for any who strive to excel in their chosen field whether it be driving really fast in an oval, smashing yellow balls over a net, twisting and tumbling across a 4-inch wide padded beam, or whathaveyou.